Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte are two of the popular tourist destinations North of Luzon because of their beautiful beaches, well-preserved cultural spots, mouth-watering delicacies and extreme adventures. So when I had the time and resources, I immediately booked a flight to Laoag to experience it firsthand.
Our flight to Laoag via CebuPacificAir was in the evening so we decided to stay at Laoag Northview Hotel for the night. The Laoag City Gov’t is offering free shuttle service to different hotels in Laoag so it was very convenient for us to travel around the area. Upon arriving at the Laoag International Airport, we went to the Information Center to avail the free shuttle. They just asked us to fill out a form for the driver.
We waited for a couple of minutes for the shuttle to arrive. I noticed that most pasengers were foreigners. We were dropped off first because our hotel was closest to the airport. I chose the Northview Hotel because of its location. It also offers free shuttle to the Partas bus station going to Vigan and has complimentary breakfast. The Laoag Northview Hotel is located at Airport Road, Brgy. 46, Nalbo Laoag City, Ilocos Norte 2900.
The next day, we ate our breakfast early and asked the reception staff for the service to the Partas bus station. It was a short travel by car and the driver was nice. It was still early when we arrived at the station and the bus was not there yet. We waited for the ticketing window to open before purchasing our tickets (I think we paid Php133 each).
The travel time to Vigan is 2-3 hours depending on the traffic condition and stopovers. The bus would drop off and load passengers/other items along the way. It was a long ride but I really enjoyed the view.
We arrived at the Partas bus station in Vigan at 11am. Then we hailed a trike to our hotel for Php30. It was still early for the 2pm check in time so we decided to leave our bags at the front desk of Grandpa’s Inn.
Grandpa’s Inn is one of the best hotels and inns in Vigan because of its age-old interior design. Most of the rooms still have the Spanish/Colonial era look to them. The beds, chairs, dining tables, decorations, lamps and bathrooms looked old and antic but very well maintained. The well-known rooms boasted at this hotel are those with Kalesa-structured beds. We were assigned on the second floor with two single beds, aircondition, tv, and private bathroom. We also had complimentary water and breakfast at the famed Cafe Uno. Other guests can also chose the fan room and shared bathroom accommodations. Inside the inn, we felt transported back in the time of our lolos and lolas. Was it creepy? Yes, kinda. But I just enjoyed the homey and historical feel of GrandPa’s Inn. GrandPa’s Inn is located at #1 Bonifacio St. Corner Quirino Blvd., Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
After leaving our bags, we went to one of the best dining places in Vigan – the Cafe Uno. Cafe Uno is located just beside GrandPa’s Inn. We were one of the first few customers at the restaurant so we were able to pick a good spot.
Because we were so hungry from the long travel, we ended up ordering two viands – pinakbet with bagnet and sizzling seafood. We also ordered binagoongan fried rice and mango shake. The pinakbet was especially delicious because of the crunchy bagnet. The seafood and binagoongan rice were also very tasty. We topped our lunch with the refreshing mango shake. Price range is from Php150-300. I give 4-stars for this dining experience.
After eating, we went back to our room to rest for a while. Then the staff of the inn helped us get a kalesa to tour the town. Our “kutchero” was very nice. He would share stories and trivias about the tourist spots in Viigan.
Note: Kalesa Tour is at Php150/hr
We visited the Bantay Belfry Tower which is a huge red-bricked bell tower overlooking Vigan. Guests can climb the tower and see the public cemetery at the back and the town proper in front. According to our guide, the tower was one of the sites where the serye “Panday” was taken. A few meters from the tower, is the St. Agustine Church which is painted almost similarly as the tower – red and cream. We went inside for a while to say a short prayer then head out again to continue our tour.
Our guide then took us to the Burgos Museum which is located near the Vigan Plaza. It is the National Museum of Vigan where guests can find tools and important artifacts used by our ancestors during the colonial period (and I think even beyond that). We saw old Filipino clothings, cooking utensils, house decorations, books and writing/studying materials. We had a student guide that time who told us the story of the artifacts at the museum. There were dioramas depicting different important events in our history as well as sculptures of national heroes.
After the fun story-sharing with our student guide, we went directly to the Hidden Garden. Inside the garden, we saw different species of birds and plants. Guests can buy plants and pots at the garden. Hidden Garden is also popular for its Vigan Empanada. I wish I was able to try it that day but we were already in a hurry. By chance, I also saw my ex-housemate at the garden with her high school friends. We haven’t seen each other in years and I was glad to see her there.
Then we headed on to the Pagburnayan Jar-Making site. There were souvenir stores at the entrance of the jar-making area. They were selling pottery products and the usual pasalubongs like keychains, magnets and wood carvings. Inside the facility, guests can try making their own jars with the help of the workers. I would love to try it but I was afraid to get dirty since we still have places to visit. I would definitely try this when I return to Vigan.
We also visited the popular Baluarte which is owned by one of the most controversial families in Ilocos – the Singson’s. Upon entering the zoo-like place, we saw huge tigers inside their cages. DIfferent species of birds can also be seen and touched by the guests. In the huge grassland, there were ostriches, sheeps and goats. We also watched a show where they let the visitors touch the huge snake and other animals they have. It was a fun experience seeing these animals freely walking around the huge Baluarte.
It was already getting late so we left the Baluarte and went to the Syquia Mansion. It is one of the well-preserved houses in Vigan where you can find Spanish-inspired architectures and designs. The bedrooms, dining areas, living rooms, baths and terraces were well-maintained. Honestly, it felt so creepy so we just toured the house fast.
Then off we went to the most popular street in Vigan – the Calle Crisologo. Most of the streets in Vigan were already reconstructed to facilitate faster and better transportation but this street is an exception. The people of Vigan maintained the bricked street and the old houses surrounding Calle Crisologo. Some of the houses were also transformed into small inns, restaurants and souvenir shops. Motor transportation are not allowed to enter the area. Most people either ride the kalesa or walk to explore this one-of-a-kind street. The stores at Calle Crisologo are selling different souvenirs/pasalubongs like tshirts, woven bags, chichacorn, sculptures, longganisa, keychains, magnets and a lot more. Definitely my favorite spot in Vigan aside from the Belfry Tower.
We were tired and our soles were weak from walking the whole afternoon so we decided to take a short nap. Later in the evening, we went to the plaza, just the street connecting to Calle Crisologo to have dinner the Cafe Leona. Cafe Leona, like Cafe Uno, is one of the favorites in Vigan. We orded the fried rice, sisig and of course, Vigan longganisa. The longganisa has a distinct taste to it – if I remember it correctly, a little sour and garlic-y. I had a mouthwatering and sumptuous dinner.
We capped off the night by walking along Calle Crisologo, marveling its beauty and history. One cannot really deny that the Filipino in us is rekindled everytime we are in Vigan. Defiinitey a Heritage City.